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K-12 Schools in America are Falling Behind

K-12 Schools in America are falling behind in staffing, literacy rates, attendance, and community cohesiveness. The reasons for this are directly linked to the pandemic, parental discord, and the actual structure of the school. The actual structure of our schools—grade levels, eight periods per day, one curriculum fits all—were not designed to respond to pandemics and parental discords. In fact the cultural disarray in our country where divided politics makes us strangers in our own towns is reflected in the discord seen in schools. What we need is a few good ideas for schools and a more harmonious political atmosphere in which to conduct a safe and literate education.

A Few Good Ideas

In response to the pandemic, our students are not feeling well. As I tell schools I work with, the students all look fine, but at least half and maybe all are not in the same good space they were in before the pandemic. And to really look back historically, half of all public school students are not doing well because they are in poverty. Although that number has changed for the better, their mental health has deteriorated and continues downward today. School personnel should now be screening all children for their mental health and I don’t mean formal screenings so much as more frequent check-ins.

Additionally, we all need to read. We need more reading with our students who need to better understand what they are reading. We also need a performance assessment that is a more accurate diagnostic of their skill progress. Instead of waiting for the National Assessment of Educational Progress to tell us that each year for the last twenty years we have made no progress on reading, let’s get a performance assessment that gives teachers instant feedback on the learning needs, the progress they are making, and an assessment that suggests how to group and teach for future success.

A More Harmonious Political Atmosphere

A more harmonious school board is critical to sustaining good schools with forward progress. In fact taking the politics out of running our schools would help schools to focus on their mission to educate instead of making them vulnerable to political winds. The professionalization of teaching needs to start with professionally trained teachers who can handle an ever increasing diversity of learners. Our students have their best chance when they are educated by a welcoming teacher concerned with each of them…their health, their sense of belonging in the school, and the educational help they need to learn and be successful.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

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